Education cuts - Moving from Protest to Success


The Education Cuts announced in October’s Budget have unleashed a wave of protest across the country. During the months of November and December approximately 120,000 people took to the streets of Dublin, Galway, Tullamore, Cork and Donegal to register their anger at the government’s attempts to make schoolchildren pay for the financial crisis. Cowen, Lenihan and O’Keefe have been left in no doubt about the level of popular opposition to these cutbacks. In addition thousands of 3rd level students have also taken to the streets and participated in marches, pickets and blockades to protest at the proposed re-introduction of fees.

What the government is now hoping of course is that we’ve all done our protesting and they can get on with implementing the cuts. While they’ve been forced to row back slightly on the issue of substitute cover for teachers, their concession has been minimal and begrudging, and there’s no doubt that as the state of the economy worsens they’ll actually be coming back for more in terms of cuts in essential public services.

But no matter how much the economy worsens, it’s clear that the assets of the rich are being protected and that a political decision has been made that it is the families of workers and the poor who they will attempt to make pay for the crisis. We must be prepared to stand firm and to deliver a very clear message to the politicians that we did not cause the crisis and that we are not willing to be the scapegoats. The wealthy bankers and property developers, the multi-millionaires who paid little or no tax throughout the boom years are the ones who should now be made to pay.

Long Haul

We need to let the government know that we’re not simply content with registering our opposition but are actually determined to defeat them. In order to do so, we need to be prepared to dig in for the long haul, to be aware that a campaign which will be successful will be one that is built in every town and parish throughout the country – a campaign of opposition to the actions of the government that will frighten the lives out of politicians and especially out of candidates who will be putting themselves forward for election to local authorities and to the European parliament in the summer.

The massive effort put in by parents and teachers to organise the hugely successful November/December series of demonstrations can be the foundation stone for the building of such a campaign. Let’s begin to co-ordinate a series of local protests, marches and pickets aimed at the defence of public services and at the defence of the victims of the financial crisis – be that private sector workers whose jobs have been savaged, public sector workers whose wages are under threat, the users of public services such as education and health whose already threadbare services are being attacked even more.

All of us must stand together and support each other. The wealthy are good at protecting each other’s backs and covering up for each other. We need to build a campaign or a series of campaigns which will offer solidarity and protection to the victims of the financial crisis. The campaign needs to be built from the grassroots up in every area. Let’s not rely on any political party or anyone else to act on our behalf, they’ve all shown they can’t be trusted. Let’s each of us rely on our own strengths and abilities to begin the process of building that campaign.

We hope that each person who reads this paper will yourself do your own little bit to help start the process of building a campaign in your area. It may mean asking your union branch or local Trades Council or community group to take an active role. It may mean a few people getting together to kick things off in a locality. We’re willing to help in whatever way we can to build a broad movement to reverse the cuts.

This article is from Workers Solidarity 107 Jan/Feb 2009

You can read WS107 online or download the PDF file